Saturday, January 22, 2011

A(nother) Night with Joshua Bell

For the third time in eleven months, the virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell made his way to Alabama, and so, for the second time in about eight months, we made the trip to Birmingham to see him and hear him play. I think if Mrs. S could have written a script of how the night would go, it would have gone pretty much like last night did. Here’s the rundown.

The drive from Madison to Birmingham was uneventful. So much so, we had time to scout out the dinner location prior to the beginning of the cocktail party, which started one hour prior to the concert itself. Even with all that, we were still the first to arrive for drinks. So, we had some. They had some good finger foods there, too, (smoked turkey pita pockets, anyone?) and though we were reluctant to fill up on them prior to the concert and post concert dinner, we ended up eating our fair share of them (which turned out to be a good thing, for reasons which I will soon divulge).

The concert (I thought) was average. I just didn’t think the songs were that exciting. Of course, Mr. Bell’s performance was top notch, as was that of his accompanist, Sam Haywood. I suppose the only notable event at the concert was the mad rush to the stage to try to find the horsehair that fell from Josh’s bow during the final suite of songs. (Nobody could find it.) We stood in line to get an autograph before heading to the post concert dinner.

The dinner was held at an old house at Birmingham that had been converted to an arts studio, with music studios, dance room, poetry room, the works. It was a lovely old house and held the fifty or so dinner guests comfortably. We mingled with the guests while sipping California wine and toured the building on our own. We met lots of interesting, influential Birminghammers. When Mr. Bell arrived, the remainder of the party obviously revolved around him. Mrs. S. wanted to take a bunch of pictures and get her picture taken with him, so while most of the rest of the folks headed off to the buffet, we stood around drinking and watching other people chat with JB. Eventually, we got our chance to chat and take photos before he himself headed off to the buffet.

Mrs. S and Joshua Bell
All that standing around translated into us being the last to hit the buffet. By the time we were ready to sit down and eat, several people had already moved into the living room, as most of the seats in the two dining areas were taken. But there were, in fact, two seats available at one of the tables, right next to Mr. Bell. And we were welcomed to sit, so Mrs. S plopped right down next to her idol. It was a fast and fascinating dinner. Mrs. S couldn’t take but a few bites of her meal, partly because it wasn’t very good, but also because she was so excited to sit next to Mr. Bell. JB, for his part, is an amiable, charming personality, and he obviously knows a lot, has many interesting stories, and is very indulgent of his fans. I would guess we spent a good seven or eight minutes, just chatting with him. He signed a personalized autograph for Mrs. S. and answered questions about whether he would so some more jazz projects (maybe) and why he comes to Alabama so often (“Because they keep asking me”). He left after the hostess’s birthday cake came out. We drank champagne and ate cake before hitting the road. At 11:00 at night, on a frigid mid-week evening in mid-January, I was able to lock the cruise control at 75 and we made it home at exactly one minute before midnight.

Honestly, I was a little amazed at how much fun I had. We became patrons of the arts in Birmingham Alabama for one night, and it was exhilarating. Like I told the hostess, who said it must be rough to drive down from Huntsville to Birmingham and back for the event, “If I could do this every week, I would.”

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